Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Eve

It was no secret that missing Christmas at home was going to be hard on me.  I may talk a big game about how much I hate Christmas (and the way it's done in America is largely offensive to my sensibilities) however in reality it's one of my favorite holidays.

After finding out that I wasn't going home for Christmas Astrid invited me to celebrate Christmas with her family.  Klaus, her husband, also invited me the next day not really being aware that Astrid had done it as well.  With two invitations I decided that it was better than staying alone in my apartment so I accepted graciously.

Germany has been under a lot of stress lately from a fairly unrelenting blizzard, quite unusual for this part of the world and at this time of the year.  I joked with Astrid that I bring bad winters with me wherever I go.  I'm getting used to them now I guess.  I relish the cold these days, oftentimes sleeping with little or no heat in my room.  I can't really breath warm air.  But I digress, my main point is that travel between cities in Germany is rather difficult at the moment.  There was some concern that I wouldn't make it in. 

These concerns proved baseless (quite a jump there) and soon I was sitting on a comfy couch playing banjo and trying desperately to keep a very enthusiastic five year old from leaving the living room and discovering her mother wrapping presents.  I managed to use my banjo as a gate and attempted to convince her that it wasn't me keeping her from leaving, but that the banjo itself.  She didn't quite buy it, but whatever no five year old can get past me you know? 

Church was pretty interesting, it was all in German and truth be told it was a lot better than what I'm used to. 

After Church we waited (im)patiently for the Christkind to come and give us our presents.  That sentence seems kind of cutesy, but really how else am I supposed to describe a five year old waiting to open her presents?  You try and take the joy out of that tiny little body squirming and pleading to be let into the living room to see what she's gotten from Christkind (who brings the presents in Germany). 

Anyway the Christkind seemed to satisfy everyone.  I got a 6 pack of Belgian beer (3 of which are alreday gone, though I accidentally broke one of the bottles) plus a case of generic beer from all over Europe.  I'm actually pretty excited for this.  As many of you know I detest the material aspects of Christmas BUT I always appreciate a thoughtful gift.  Beer is pretty much always a good bet, especially when it's stuff I don't get all the time.  It reminded me of home in a good way.

Dinner followed at around 10 or so, it was duck.  There's been an awful lot of duck in my life as of late (I got kicked out of an all you can eat buffet that served a lot of duck) and I don't see this as a bad thing.  

Speaking of home Nathan is here, he brought me a bottle of Devine Reserve 10.  He is a wonderful and amazing human being.  We plan to share it at the end of our journey here in Germany.  We head out to Köln tomorrow, then to Berlin and Dresden.  At the end of everything I want to try a team entry of our collective experience, in part to alleviate my annoyance at blogging, but also to give all 3 of us (his girlfriend is also here) an equal voice.   It promises to be an epic adventure.  I'll try and keep you guys posted. 

Nathan and Rebecca are coming

Nathan over at L'histoire de sa vie is coming to visit with his girlfriend Rebecca.  It's going to be fun.  There will be no guest blogging from him, because that would be pointless.

I'll update about my Christmas adventures in Germany a little bit later.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tomorrow in class I'm hoping my class can understand Biz Markie.  I really hope they do.

Also I now have an acoustic bass for the year.  Need to start a band ASAP

Saturday, December 4, 2010


John drinks Glühwein, John likes Glühwein.


Christmas is way better here in Germany than in the US.  Granted it's still pretty far away, but Christmas here seems to be way more about family than about presents.  I've talked to Germans about this and they said the one holiday they would never miss under any circumstance would be Christmas because it would mean they are away from their families.  As someone who only gets to see his family a couple of times a year I can really appreciate this sentiment.  It's usually such a pain for me to go home that I'd rather just forgo presents altogether in favor of a good meal and quality time with the family.  This would include the drinking of cocoa, milk punch, eggnog etc and the wearing of festive sweaters.  Also of course A Charlie Brown would be shown, as well as a Christmas Story.  These are the things I like most about American Christmas.

I like German Christmas because there is Lebkuchen, everywhere.  Literally everywhere.  Also Glühwein, and chocolate. 


Wednesday, December 1, 2010


So you should probably start with the previous post if you're just picking up on this now.  I have a tendency to get lost in unimportant details and sometimes lose patience with it myself even. 

Anyway as midnight reared its ugly head (we were actually taking it easy because the previous night required the use of a taxi to get home, and none of us quite remembers how we found a taxi) the Brits noticed that it was my birthday and decided to sing.  This was the first of at least 5 different Happy Birthday songs I would be forced to endure throughout the next week.  This one was actually quite charming because they sang it in the Stadtbahn station with fake German accents (that were pretty dead on, though I guess we can all do them now) and then I remember hugs happening.  They're actually nice people once you get to know them. 

Anyway my birthday itself was rather boring afterward.  In the morning a Scottish girl kissed me on the eye, or that happened later.  I don't remember which one.  She also slapped me two nights prior to illustrate her ability to do so.  I don't understand either.

For some reason the tour of the Altstadt happened on the last day of our time in Düsseldorf.  What made the whole thing even stranger was that they only took us through places we had already been, either on our own or because we were taken there previously.  None of it made much sense.

Traveled home, nothing exciting happened.  I got invited to an awesome Thanksgiving dinner. 

So there's this German-American organization in Münster (and I guess in Germany) which hosts things on American holidays so that ex-pats and Germans who have spent time in America can get together and get a little slice of home/remember their time abroad.  The meal itself was actually delicious, it was a potluck in an old German barn.  They had not one but two huge Turkeys that were actually quite tasty and I made some garlic mashed potatoes that I saw the Americans devour ravenously but the Germans not really touch.  I thought it was pretty good anyway.

Then came the line dancing, which I thought was the greatest thing ever until I saw the square dancing.

Germans dancing is by far my favorite thing to watch.  I feel bad for making fun of them, but they do it too so I guess it's ok. 

Anyway they shuffled aimlessly around the floor while the caller kept mispronouncing "Dos-i-do", it was pretty special.  I was beside myself, really and truly. 

The strangest part of the evening was losing in the trivia contest about American history.  We lost to a bunch of old Germans who were in America during the '60s and 70's.  They called themselves, rather prophetically I might add, "The Winners" and actually didn't beat the Amis by all that much.

At some point I also saw a production of the Christmas Carol and stayed up till 4 at some dance club.  It was pretty boring.

Also I drank a lot of glühwein, and will continue to do so until they stop selling it to me. 


Oy vey.  So at the moment it's -10˚C (14˚F) here in Münster, which means jacket time.  Thankfully my grandmother made a generous birthday donation so I could afford something nice (because I'm an idiot who doesn't think he needs to bring his jacket to Germany).  I still need to buy gloves (apparently I forgot those too, oh well) and maybe even a new hat (well hats are the one thing I buy whether I actually need them or not).  At last the Germans will stop asking me, "Aren't you cold?  It's almost x degrees outside, you Americans are crazy."  I made that last part up, but you get my point.  Every time a European asks you a question, the anti-American sentiment is implicit.  I kid of course, over the past couple of weeks I've met Germans who love America, Americans and English. 

What?  You mean you found German people to hang out with? 

yeah, I kind of did. 

Anyway before I get to that, we should probably go over some of the things I've been doing since it's been a while. 

So NRW likes to treat it's FSAs (Fremdsprachassisstant) with some mad respect, which means for 10 euro we all got to go to Düsseldorf for a couple of days last week.  Astute readers will note that my birthday was also last week.  The two things will come together quite nicely as the story progresses.

Anyway I made friends with a fellow American traveling the same way.  We chatted about the ups and downs of the FSA life etc.  Fast forward, Düsseldorf, arguing with Brits about the best way to get to the Hostel, checking in, meeting two dudes who are pretty awesome and shared our room with us.

Seriously, Aly and James were both pretty cool guys.  James especially, though I don't know what became of him in the end. 

They took us to the Landsregierung building, which is the capital building for Nordrhein-Westfalen.  The tour was hardly a tour, and mostly Germans waxing poetic about the symbolism of the state government.  For some reason the most west German state of all the west German states feels the need to overemphasize the connection between transparency and democracy in their government buildings.  We got to meet the minister of schools for all of NRW, which is pretty cool when you consider that most people will never meet their state's school minister.  She let us ask her questions and even though I didn't ask her anything I felt as if I had grilled her hard with my mind.  She was a worthy opponent, but she was no match for my perceived American toughness. 

Afterward a bunch of us gathered at the Weihnachtsmarkt for Glühwein and good company.  Christmas in Germany is way better than in America, mostly because people get excited for things like Glühwein, good company and pastries rather than whatever piece of plastic we're expected to purchase for one another.  Also Christmas carols play a very small role, small enough that they can be drowned out with Glühwein. 

Glühwein is spiced wine, it's very good. 

Anyway the first night ended with jovial drinking and watching Sunderland-Everton.  The Brits behaved rather poorly and therefore we avoided them (excluding James, who was just as disgusted as we were).

The night ended at a rather rocking pub where the beer flowed freely and the staff seemed to really like us. 

Next morning= no fun. 

We toured the Ruhrmuseum which is located in an old coal mine.  The building itself was way more interesting to me than the tour, and I wished I'd skipped it to go exploring.  I'm a huge fan of abandoned industrial landscapes apparently. 

From there we moved to a mall that was predictably terrible and way too American.  I still don't understand why we were there.  It was just outside of a building that had the largest replica of the moon in the world.  It was quite impressive, but ultimately pointless I would say. 

The day wasn't over however, we needed to stumble around an old steel factory in the dark.  While it was cool to go wondering, it was really stupid in the dark. 

Anyway it was cold and I wanted to head back to Düsseldorf to get something to eat and maybe watch Champions League. 

I will continue this story when I regain interest in telling it.